Dr Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann – OPINION – There have been no celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership project between the European Union and the former Republics of the USSR. Officially launched as a joint policy initiative which “aims to deepen and strengthen relations” between the European Union Member States and its six Eastern neighbors: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, with time it failed to clarify its strategic goals.
In reality the ambivalence of the aims the EU pursues, namely in the frame of the Enlargement policy, the obscurity of perspective of the membership for, at least some of the six, – are the elements which plague the endeavor for participants from both sides.
Ten year after the EU narrative on the Eastern Partnership is partially biased since it does not explain the complete picture and maintains ambiguity about future relations between the EU and Eastern neighbors.
Previously on the occasion of the 5th Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Brussels, 24 November 2017, EastStratCom, a unit within the European External Action Service (EEAS) of the EU, set up to address Russia‘s ongoing disinformation campaigns, published a document on its website, entitled “Myths about the Eastern Partnership” supposed to counter false information about this policy.
According to its website, the East StratCom Task Force “develops communication products and campaigns focused on better explaining EU policies in the Eastern Partnership countries“. The document pretends to counter the myth that participation in the Eastern Partnership (Eap) leads to EU membership. It underlines that this claim is “false” and that the Eastern Partnership initiative “is not a EU accession process“, however its aim is to build “a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased cooperation“.
In reality the situation is even much more ambiguous, than its reflection in the document, which omits to mention that although the accession is not mentioned in EU or other Eastern Partnership documents, further EU Enlargement to the East is an objective of some members in the bloc. The EU Enlargement has to be approved by Member States at unanimity and Member States are today divided on the issue. However, the pro-enlargement countries think the situation can change in the future.
Subsequently Ukrainian think tanks in Brussels are promoting future enlargements after a process of Europeanisation through the Eastern Partnership program. East StratCom omits to inform about the implicit sides of this policy. The EaP policy is from its origins, used both by the EaP countries and some EU Member States to push for further EU enlargement in the longer term.
Geopolitical analysis is about highlighting the implicit objectives of actors. In this respect, the former EU ambassador to Russia has unveiled his support for EU enlargement to the Ukraine. The Lithuanian Vygaudas Ušackas, declared in October 2017 that “we need not only to acknowledge Ukrainians’” European aspirations but at some point grant them a path towards EU membership.
We know from experience that the prospect of membership works as a stimulus for reforms. Uncertainty about Ukraine’s geopolitical position also leaves it exposed to further destabilisation by Russia, which in turn has a negative impact on EU-Russia relations. A successful Ukraine will contribute to stability in our region and represent a powerful example for the Russian people.”
Unsurprisingly, this is in line of Poland and Baltic countries, but also more recently Romania and Croatia, who are openly in favour of further EU enlargement and this is precisely why they support the Eastern Partnership policy. The President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul also underlined “we must offer concrete European prospect to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. And we must offer them the hope that one day they can join our family“.
The EU narrative on the Eastern Partnership is therefore partially biased since it does not explain the complete picture and maintains ambiguity about future enlargement. This ambiguity is reducing trust, not only with Russia, but also with EU citizens. To resolve this crucial problem, as part of this reform, the EU needs to fix its frontiers in order to preserve its cohesion, strengthen its identity and facilitate the identification of its interests.
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Good analysis. EU needs to establish and maintain good political relations with its neighbors. Some of them have an EU perspective (Western Balkans). Others a stronger political partnership.